Opinion/Letters to the Editor July 2021


July 2 issue:

Guest commentary:

Mental health action: The time is now

By Ethan Fitzgerald

A few months ago, student leaders from each of the high schools within the San Dieguito Union High School District came together around a common goal: addressing the mental health needs of all students. Meetings occurred weekly with feedback considered from counselors, parents, and other students. From this, we put together an array of ways to best utilize existing resources, and we have come up with a list of essential expansions in terms of additional resources.

One positive note from the previous year is that of increased focus on the subject of mental health. Talk is crucial as an important first step, but most consequential is action. We cannot allow this issue to drift into the wind; it’s far too important. If we fail to meet this moment, it would represent an unforgivable lack of care and support for those who need it most. We tend to treat mental health as a taboo, and even though it can be uncomfortable to discuss, it’s something we must.

Nearly everyone struggles with their mental health at some point, some more intensely. Either way, people can understand from their own experiences and others that it’s crucial to our well-being. Without sound mental health, everything about who we are can be at risk, exemplifying why it’s not a stand alone issue. Addressing and treating mental health means better performance in school, stronger relationships, and a better collective atmosphere.

Discussion and action should be able to unify us all. When such a significant issue is being further acknowledged, it is of utmost importance to respond. That is why we are asking for appropriate action from the SDUHSD school board. “Sleep-Friendly” start times for students have already been shut down for the time-being, but we must persist to do all we can to best use the time we have to act prior to the 2021-2022 school year.

Furthermore, we must not put a band-aid over this issue and simply act like that’s enough. We must focus on comprehensive and long-term solutions. One example is later school start times. We still believe this is essential to student performance throughout the day. Ask any student whether they want more or less sleep, you can presume the answer. Additionally, we need more counselors. According to the American School Counselor Association, schools should “maintain a ratio of 250 students per school counselor,” a figure we must strive for, but are presently nowhere near.

Other solutions include having a PALs program at each school, which means a student-counselor partnered support initiative to promote wellness and connectivity among all students. This is something that some schools in the district have while others do not, which is inherently inequitable. Obviously, each school site is different, but that does not mean one should lack a crucial resource, while another has it. Upon evaluating our district’s mental health resources, we have seen that issue arise time and time again.

For further information on our many other solutions, our presentation will be linked at the bottom of this commentary, which we would encourage everyone to look over and hopefully support. Overall, we are not naive to the fact that what we’re asking requires time and resources, but with something as important as mental health, the stakes are too high not to act in a meaningful manner. Thank you.

Link to Mental Health presentation:

— Ethan Fitzgerald is the Student Body President of San Dieguito Academy

Guest commentary:

Stop endangering our community on July 4


Every year, it’s like clockwork.

Shortly after nightfall on Independence Day, a series of booms, bangs, shrieks and blasts begin to split the air, and that’s the cue for me, and many of my neighbors, to start holding our collective breath. What we fear most is that the next sound we hear will be sirens, for these aren’t the explosions of the professional fireworks shows taking place all over the county. They’re the sounds of private—and illegal—celebrations very close to home, and we’re terrified that whoever is responsible for these amateur pyrotechnics will finally run out of luck and set our community on fire.

Here in Olivenhain, the threat of wildfire isn’t just an abstraction. We live in the wildland-urban interface, surrounded by nature and a whole lot of fuel, courtesy of the Escondido Creek watershed and all the brush and detritus that washes down from upstream. Our community has been evacuated several times because of wildfire—a process that the city’s own plan now estimates will take four hours. (Other, more recent calculations project even longer evacuation times.) CalFire has designated Olivenhain a “Very High Fire Severity Area,” and a number of insurance companies have redlined us. Many neighbors have had their homeowner insurance canceled.

And that’s without factoring in the threat from our scofflaw neighbors. For every firework that’s lit, the hazard to our community increases exponentially. Only last year, a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party ignited the El Dorado fire near Yucaipa, which burned thousands of acres and killed a firefighter. After two years of record-breaking fires in our state and our current record-breaking drought, I shudder to think what destruction a wayward firework could wreak in a heavily populated area like ours. Yes, we all know that fireworks can cause bodily injury and property damage, regardless of location, but under the current conditions, a fire could decimate countless homes in Olivenhain and beyond, devastate precious natural habitats and injure or kill many people and domestic and wild animals.

So why do some neighbors persist in flouting the law on July 4, recklessly putting Olivenhain and neighboring communities at extreme risk? I wish I knew. Even more, I wish they would stop. Patriotic fervor on our nation’s birthday is one thing. Gratuitously and unlawfully imperiling entire communities is quite another.

It’s not as if there aren’t other options for celebrating the Fourth of July. This year, public fireworks displays have been scheduled in Vista, San Marcos, Oceanside, Del Mar, Escondido, La Jolla, Legoland, Sea World and San Diego Bay, among others. One year, some neighbors and I set up chairs at the La Costa Park and Ride to take in several North County fireworks shows. At Moonlight Beach you can do the same thing. The Encinitas Fire Department reminds residents annually, in multiple ways, that fireworks and sky lanterns are illegal. And yet a small number of irresponsible people choose to act as if the laws don’t apply to them.

For the sake of our city and our safety, I urge everyone who witnesses illegal fireworks in Encinitas to report them immediately to the Sheriff’s Department. You can bet I’ll be doing the same. The lives and homes we save may be our own.

— Sarah Lifton, an Encinitas-based writer, is a board member and the outreach and communications coordinator for the Olivenhain Fire Safe Council (

Letters to the Editor:

A positive step for climate change

I am very encouraged to see that House GOP members are forming a group to advance market-based policies. Based on the modeling done by climate interactive, a market-based policy is the biggest change we can make to reduce global temperature increases, although it cannot solve the climate crisis alone. There is already a bill supporting market based-policy in the house -- HR2307, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. I hope we can get bipartisan support around this bill, and that our own Rep. Issa joins in supporting the bill, or at least the policy!

Jennifer McQueen


Loss of small town beachy vibe

This letter is in regards to Flock Freight taking over the Whole Foods and Nixon Building. Encinitas is not a little beach town any longer with tenants like this coming in.

I have worked in retail in downtown Encinitas for over 12 years and have witnessed the small town change in a big way. The lack of parking has always been an issue. Now with Flock Freight coming in we will have an additional 200-plus employees trying to park in downtown Encinitas for long periods of time. Retail businesses are struggling enough with the high rents along the coast.

Encinitas has really lost its small town beach charm and becoming like any city with big concrete mixed-use buildings popping up everywhere, heavy traffic, overcrowded, and rampant homelessness, it’s pretty ironic that the mixed-use retail and housing development that Flock Freight is taking over started the decline years ago in downtown Encinitas going to over-development. I know you can’t stop progress but it’s really sad to see Encinitas loose its small town beachy vibe. And it looks like Leucadia is next!

Trish Walsh


July 16 issue:

Separated and protected bike lanes are a must

Two recent bicycle fatalities in North County are very troubling and indicate the need for more protected bike facilities to separate bikes from cars as much as possible.

On June 22, a 75-year-old man riding on the road in Solana Beach was hit and killed by a 21-year-old drunk driver at 10:35 a.m. The very next day, a 34-year-old woman, a scientist from the Salk Institute, was struck and killed in La Jolla by a 74-year-old driver when the rider was merging into the left lane.

We all know that drivers do not always do what they are supposed to do, like pay attention, or only drive sober, or give up their licenses when they are too old or impaired to drive anymore.

Tragic incidents like these are the result, and they are the very reason why many people choose to not to ride bicycles on the road…full stop.

If we hope to get more people to ride bicycles, separated and protected bike lanes are a must. They don’t eliminate the risk of getting hit by a car entirely, but they certainly reduce that possibility to the point that many more people will feel safe enough to bicycle on the road.

Yet there are those in the local cycling community who continue to work tirelessly against protected lanes for their own self-serving need to go as fast as possible and ride in large groups. Local municipalities should have little desire to cater to this interest group and move forward with planning and building more separated and protected bike lanes.

Jeremy Blakespear


Duncan Brown: Perspective of a former student

I am an alum of Oakcrest and San Dieguito Academy (SDA), taught by a group of exceptionally supportive and knowledgeable teachers. And Duncan Brown was my counselor for my time at SDA. I’ve known Duncan Brown my entire life. My mom is a teacher and has worked closely with his wife for over 25 years. His daughter and I grew up together.

It shocks me to read accusations of Mr. Brown “stalking” and “jumping out of the bushes” at board members, of being “power hungry” separating him from the teachers he represents. These images of some evil person are laughable to anyone who knows Mr. Brown. We all know Duncan Brown to be humble, soft-spoken, supportive and principled.

That evil image of him is laughable, until it isn’t funny anymore. This past year, my mom would describe teaching during the pandemic – the difficulties of the job, yes, but more sadly about the contentious environment brought on by the same people making these attacks on Mr. Brown. One day back in January, I was texting my mom back and forth as she was listening in on a school board meeting. She described how everyone would say how they loved and respected teachers, while continually marginalizing them in decisions about reopening. I responded back to her, “Everyone loves teachers…until they want to be safe or get paid.”

Mr. Brown served me well as my counselor – building my course schedule, writing letters of recommendation, being a smiling face in the office. He also serves my mom, my teachers, and all their colleagues as San Dieguito Faculty Association president – working harder than ever to assure they are supported and heard, so they can focus on doing what they do for kids. That’s the Duncan Brown I know. And I thank him. So should everyone else. He deserves civility and respect from board members and the community.

Julia Herold,

SDA, Class of 2019